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The Purpose of Crust and Dirt L a w re n ceR i nder

l. Thomas Hirschhorn, "Utopia, Utopia = One World, One War, One Army, One Dress," in Nicholas Baune and Ralph Rugoff, eds., Tlomas Hirsfiion UtEia Am1,

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You'd have to be oblivious not to realize that the world today is in pretty bad shape. Ecologically, politically, and economically, we are on the verge of disaster, and the stress of it all can get to be too much. For some contemporary artists, the only suitable response is to jump into the thick of it, to come face to face with the most offensive aspects of reality. Art like this is supposed to give us hope through a kind of homeopathic magic, with a dose of what ails us providing the cure. The Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhoffr, for example, recently wrote, ttComing out from the dystopia, from the nightmare, from the darkness, from the ultimate catastrophe, there is a way, an incredible, an impossible, a utopian way."' Although there are myriad images in his work that most of us would find disturbing, there is no clear and direct message. "I understand art as an assertion of foms," wrote Hirschhorn: in his raucous sculptures and collages, acts of chaos, violence, and militarism are perforrned as much as they are shown.2

(Boston: Instrtute

for Contemporary

Art; San

Francisco: CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, 2005), 14. 2. Ibi d., 1 1 . 3. Nicolas Bourriaud, Re/ationa/ Aesthetics,trans. Simon Pleasance a n d F r o n z a W o ods w i th the p a rti ci pation of Mathieu Copeland (Dijon: Pressesdu reel, 2002), 20. 4. See Roger Fry "An Essay in Aesthetics," in Vision and Design (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920), I 6-1 8. 5. O l i r e r H al sma n R o se n b e rg. interuiew with the author, March 9, 2006.

Hirschhorn's possibly ironic use of the word ttutopia" contrasts with the wholehearted and earnest use of this term by the critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud, who deploys it in relafor instance, by the work of Rirkrit tion to another set of practices-exemplified, Tiravanija-in which artists set out to counter the rot of contemporary life by creating temporary zones of sociability. Tiravaniia himself is best known for exhibitions in which he uses galleries and museums as places to cook food for visitors. Over the past ten years, such simple acts of generosity have become a de facto art genre, sometimes included under the rubric "relational art" or ttsocial practices.tt Interestingly, despite the dispersion of the aesthetic experience from the distinct work of art into the social field, critics such as Bourriaud continue to call on formal criteria such as ttwholeness" and "bonding" for iudging the success or failure of relational works.' So, are Tiravanija's lunches and dinners genuinely ttsocial," or do they simply enact a social form? To iudge from the statements of Hirschhorn and the criticism of Bourriaud, fotmalism, these days, is lurking in some unsuspected places. Yet, even the English critic Roger Fryone of the earliest and most ardent proponents of formalist aesthetics-believed that form itself is not enough to create aesthetic experience. It is the artistts sense of purpose, Fry believed, that matters most.4 Ironically, this view was shared by Fry's most astute antagonist, Marcel Duchamp, who reiected formalist assumptions yet held that an artist's will was enough to endow even a found obiect with artistic identity. If will, or sense of purpose, is indeed a key to artistic expression-and perhaps, therefore, a necessary ingredient even in art that engages social relations in order to take on the appalling mess of the world today-then it is important to consider the work of the San Francisco-based collaboration, Crust and Dirt. Why them? To begin with, their purpose is clear and unabashed: ttto create social systems of self-empowâ‚Źrment."5 Almost every work they have made thus far has been intended to make people feel better about themselves and to do so by awakening them to the possibility of feeling a connection to others. Relatedness begins in their work with the collaboration itself: Crust (Oliver Halsman Rosenberg) and Dirt (Clint Thniguchi) depend on each other not only for artistic but also for spiritual inspiration. They are sagesfor each other. flow does their purpose become form? The first clue is in their name, Crust and Dirt, which suggests something humble and primordial. Indeed, their practice involves partially


effacing themselves in order to elevate those with whom they interact. In their live, computer-assisted Instant Drawing Machine events, Crust and Dirt wear masks (Crust is a fox; Dirt is a bird) while interacting with people on the other side of the globe. New technology enables them to be immediate; old technology allows them to be removed. Why this distancing? It is, says Crust, "...in order to become manifesting spirits, to break free from our personalities, and to become time-travelers.ttu Here is an echo of Thomas flirschhorn's polemical announcement, "IJtopia from headlessness. Utopia from practice. Utopia from assertion. Utopia from art!"7 There is a subtle difference though: Crust and Dirt express loss of identity-in personal terms (it is their aim, their purpose), this transformation-this in individual terms but in totalizing, global ones. speaks not whereas Hirschhorn

6. rbid. 7. Hirschhorn, 14. 8. Octavio Ptz, Marce/ Durbamp (New York: Mking Penguin, Inc., 1978) ,10.

The Instant Drawing Machine is, in the words of Dirt, "a wishing well." Passersby on the streets of Tokyo, Stockholm, or New York reveal a wish or dream to a computer standing in the middle of the sidewalk. While one of the team records, the other instantly draws the request, the results being beamed back to the distant participants. Unlike many contemporary ttsocial practicet' artists, Crust and Dirt have a talent for making visual images, so their drawings sparkle with life and humor. The participants laugh and smile as they see their wishes and dreams depicted. In exhibitions, Crust and Dirt present the paper scrolls on which their drawings are made as well as recordings of their interactive, long-distance drawing sessions. We, as viewers, can laugh and smile too, because we perceive the artistst purpose and its unfolding. Compare this to the exhibition of Tiravanija's mute dinner leavings-pots and pans and empty packaging.

9. Ibid. 10. Bourriaud also speaksof"relational aesthetics" in terms of machines: "A work may operate like a relational device containing a certain degree of randomness, or a machine provoking and managing individual and group encounters." R e/ational A esthetto, 30.

The choice of the word "machine" in the name of their project (Instant DrawingMachine) may seem odd for an effort so steeped in human interaction and spiritual allusions. It is here that Crust and Dirt borrow more from Duchamp than from Fry. Aside from their shared belief in the potency of artistic pu{pose, Duchamp differed from Fry in his understanding of the subde essence of subjectivity and its drives, which he represented as a "delirious machine.t'* This seemingly contradictory perspective--combining, as Octavio Paz observed, method and madness-is embodied in Duchamp's images of esoteric energy engines such as that presented in The Bride Suipped Bare by IIer Bachelors, Even (Ihe Large Glass) (1915-23). Paz's characterization of Duchamp's works as "symbol-machines" could apply equally to Crust and Dirt's interactive project.e Purpose may be evident in the work of Crust and Dirt, but it is a pu{pose complicated by its origin in extrapersonal, mechanical, and quasi-mystical forces.'o Oliver and Clint wish the reader

The form of Crust and Dirtts work can be located on many levels: in the events where they draw the wishes and dreams of people far away; in the evocative ink drawings placed sequentially on long paper scrolls; in their recorded interactions as seen on computer screens; in the accumulation of these artifacts into installations; and in the dissemination of their method to others who will apply it in different and unpredictable ways. This is another way in which Crust and Dirt are purposeful yet self-effacing: their willingness to give away their idea. They have no desire to "own" the Instant Drawing Machine or to make any money from it. On the contrary they hope that other people take it up and use it freely. As strange as it is, Crust and Dirt's proiect is too pragmatic to be utopian. In addressing the deterioration of society, their art does not, like Tiravaniia's, anticipate an ideal social possibility, nor is it, like flirschhorn's, an intensified representation of some place we already are. Rather, the Instant Drawing Machine generates new relationships that are simultaneously real and i-"gnary. It utilizes the machinery of global communications to explore the free play of identity and desire. Based on collaboration, spontaneity, and engagement, its form is identical to its purpose.

to know that Crustand Dirt rely for an on communi typarti c i pati on InstantDrawingMachinesession to take pl ac e.Otherv i tal parti c i pantsi ncl u dethe c oordi nator, J ul i a Barnes,and web and logo designer,Tsutomul s hi da,as w el l as the l nstantD raw i ngMac hi nehos ts :i n BarcetonaGreatw , ork si n; H al l e/S aal e, GermanyLuk , aH i ns e i n London, and C hri sti anS tei nberg; RobertaJenkins,RobertArvidsson, , Ts utomu C heri eBarn esand l shi da;i n N e wY orkC i ty J, ul i a Barnes,D i naP ugh,and Y umi Wakayama; i n S hanghaiJ,ul i a Barnes;i n Stoc k hol m,E ri cC ungD i nhand Lis aA nders s on; and i n Tokyo,JutiaBarnesand Kensuke Tanaka.


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'Annette'sWish[A MuseWhols KissingtheArtist],"excerptftomlnstantDrawingMachine 24,zoo5.Inkon paper,dimensions variable. Germany,September Scroll:Halle$aale,

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"Maple'sWish[ToMeetCrustand Dirt],"excerptfromlnstantDrawingMachine variable, Scroll:Shonghoi,China,April3, 2oo5.Inkon paper,dimensions

"Jason'sWish[ToRetirein Rio],"excerptfrom lnstant DrowingMochineScroll: variable. NewYork,USA,June27,2oo5.lnk on paper,dimensions

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tfi:tl "Billy'sWish[ToBe an EightFootTranny],"excerptfrcmlnstantDrawingMachine Scroll:London,UnitedKingdom,August20, 2oo5.Ink on paper,dimensions variable.


TheDrawingCenterl exhibitionsand documenting Thisis number63 of the DrawingPapers,a seriesof publications publicprogramsand providinga forumfor the studyof drawing. Crustand DirtSlnstantDrowingMachinehasbeenmadepossible,in part,with the supportofTheAndyWarhol Chase. andJPMorgan Foundation, for the VisualArts,TheGreenwall Foundation to the EdwardHatlamTuck are madepossiblethroughcontributions TheDrawingCenter! zoo5-zoo6publications KathyFuld, publicationProgramfrom Frances RobertDuke,ElizabethFondaras, BeattyAdter,Maryand RobertCarswell, JoanneLyman,MichaelLynne,JohnI' Madden, Mr.and Mrs.JamesR.Houghton,WernerH. Kramarsky, EltenGaltagher, & SterlingLLBand LityTuck. Inc.,Shearman RohatynFoundation, TheFelixand Etizabeth GeorgeNegroponte, Boardof Directors FrancesBeattyAdler,Chairman EricC. Rudin,Vice-Chairman DitaAmory MelvaBucksbaum S. Daniel Stephen FrancesDittmer Factor Etizabeth BruceW. Ferguson BarryM. Fox JamesR. Hedges,lV

CenterPubllcatlons Dravvlng Executive Editor AdamLehner, Designer LucDerycke, Managing Editor loannaBerman, Assistant Moon,Publications Kavior TheDrawingCenter 35WoosterStreet NewYork,NY1oo13 fe| 272-2L9-2r66 Fax 2t2-966-2976 www.drawingcenter.org @ zoo6 The Drawing Center

WernerH. Kramarsky* AbbyLeigh* MichaetLynne lris Marden CatherineOrentreich LisaPevaroff-Cohn Rohatyn" Etizabeth ,laneDresnerSadaka A[[enLeeSessoms JeanneC.Thayer* AndreaWoodner GeorgeNegroponte,President EtizabethMetcalf, Acting ExecutiveDirector *Emeriti

PAGE1 AND lNsfoE BACKcovERt lnstant Drawing Machine:'Art be the seed buried inside you, with a wish your actions bear fruit," 200,6. Ink on paper, 9 x rz in.


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